Изображения страниц
PDF
EPUB

on the idea that a man's religious belief is a matter above human law; that it is a question to be settled between him and his Maker, because he is responsible to none but his Maker for adopting or rejecting revealed truth. And here is the great distinction which is sometimes overlooked, and which I am afraid is now too often overlooked, in this land, the glorious inheritance of the sons of the Pilgrims. Men, for their religious sentiments, are accountable to God, and to God only. Religion is both a communication and a tie between man and his Maker; and to his own master every man standeth or falleth. But when men come together in society, establish social relations, and form governments for the protection of the rights of all, then it is indispensable that this right of private judgment should in some measure be relinquished and made subservient to the judgment of the whole. Religion may exist while every man is left responsible only to God. Society, civil rule, the civil state, cannot exist, while every man is responsible to nobody and to nothing but to his own opinion. And our New England ancestors understood all this quite well. Gentlemen, there is the “ Constitution " which was adopted on board the Mayflower in November, 1620, while that bark of immortal memory was riding at anchor in the harbor of Cape Cod. What is it? Its authors honored God; they professed to obey all His commandments, and to live ever and in all things in His obedience. But they say, nevertheless, that for the establishment of a civil polity, for the greater security and preservation of their civil rights and liberties, they agree that the laws and ordinances, and I am glad they put in the word “constitutions,” invoking the name of the Deity on their resolution; they say, that these laws and ordinances, and constitutions, which may be established by those they should appoint to enact them, they, in all due submission and obedience, will support.

This constitution is not long. I will read it. It invokes a religious sanction and the authority of God on their civil obligations; for it was no doctrine of theirs that civil obedience was a mere matter of expediency. Here it is:

" In the name of God, Amen: We whose names are underwritten, the loyal subjects of our dread Sovereign Lord, King James, by the Grace of God, of Great Britain, France, and Ireland, King, and Defender of the Faith, etc., having undertaken, for the glory of God and advancement of the Christian faith, and honor of our King and country, a voyage to plant the first colony in the heathen parts of Virginia, do by these presents solemnly and mutually, in the presence of God and of one another, covenant and combine ourselves together into a civil body politic, for our better ordering and preservation, and furtherance of the ends aforesaid, and by virtue hereof to enact, constitute, and frame such just and equal laws, ordinances, acts, constitutions, and offices, from time to time, as shall be thought most meet and convenient for the general good of the colony; unto which we promise all due submission and obedience."

The right of private judgment in matters between the Creator and himself, and submission and obedience to the will of the whole, upon whatsoever respects civil polity and the administration of such affairs as concerned the colony about to be established, they regarded as entirely consistent; and the common sense of mankind, lettered and unlettered, everywhere establishes and confirms this sentiment. Indeed, all must see, that it is the very ligament, the very tie, which connects man to man, in the social system; and these sentiments are embodied in that constitution. Gentlemen, discourse on this topic might be enlarged, but I pass from it.

Gentlemen, we are now two hundred and thirty years from that great event. There is the Mayflower (pointing to a small figure of a ship, in the form of confectionery, that stood before him). There is a little resemblance, but a correct one, of the Mayflower. Sons of New England! there was in ancient times a ship that carried Jason to the acquisition of the Golden Fleece. There was a flag-ship at the battle of Actium which made Augustus Cæsar master of the world. In modern times, there have been flag-ships which have carried Hawkes, and Howe, and Nelson on the other continent, and Hull, and Decatur, and Stewart, on this, to triumph. What are they all; what are they all, in the chance of remembrance among men, to that little bark, the Mayflower, which reached these shores on December 22, 1620. Yes, brethren of New England, yes! that Mayflower was a flower destined to be of perpetual bloom! (Cheers.] Its verdure will stand the sultry blasts of summer, and the chilling winds of autumn. It will defy winter; it will defy all climate, and all time, and will continue to spread its petals to the world, and to exhale an ever-living odor and fragrance to the last syllable of recorded time. (Cheers.)

Gentlemen, brethren, ye of New England! whom I have come some hundreds of miles to meet this night, let me present to you one of the most distinguished of those personages who came hither on the deck of the Mayflower. Let me fancy that I now see Elder William Brewster entering the door at the further end of this hall. A tall and erect figure, of plain dress, of no elegance of manner beyond a respectful bow, mild and cheerful, but of no merriment that reaches beyond a smile. Let me suppose that his image stood now before us, or that it was looking in upon this assembly.

“ Are ye, are ye,” he would say, with a voice of exultation, and yet softened with melancholy, “ Are ye our children? Does this scene of refinement, of elegance, of riches, of luxury, does all this come from our labors? Is this magnificent city, the like of which we never saw nor heard of on either continent, is this but an offshoot from Plymouth Rock?

Quis jam locus
Quæ regio in terris nostri non plena laboris?'

Is this one part of the great reward, for which my brethren and myself endured lives of toil and of hardship? We had faith and hope. God granted us the spirit to look forward, and we did look forward. But this scene we never anticipated. Our hopes were on another life. Of earthly gratifications we tasted little; for human honors we had little expectation. Our bones lie on the hill in Plymouth churchyard, obscure, unmarked, secreted to preserve our graves from the knowledge of savage foes. No stone tells where we lie. And yet, let me say to you, who are our descendants, who possess this glorious country, and all it contains, who enjoy this hour of prosperity, and the thousand blessings showered upon it by the God of your fathers, we envy you not; we reproach you not. Be rich, be prosperous, be enlightened. Live in pleasure, if such be your allotment on earth; but live, also, always to God and to duty. Spread yourselves and your children over the continent; accomplish the whole of your great destiny; and if so be, that

[ocr errors][ocr errors][merged small][merged small]

1

through the whole you carry Puritan hearts with you; if you still cherish an undying love of civil and religious liberty, and mean to enjoy them yourselves, and are willing to shed your heart's blood to transmit them to your posterity, then are you worthy descendants of Carver and Allerton and Bradford, and the rest of those who landed from stormy seas on the rock of Plymouth.” [Loud and prolonged cheers.]

Gentlemen, that little vessel, on December 22, 1620, made her safe landing on the shore of Plymouth. She had been tossed on a tempestuous ocean; she approached the New England coast under circumstances of great distress and trouble; yet amidst all the disasters of her voyage, she accomplished her end, and she placed the feet of a hundred precious souls on the shore of the New World.

Gentlemen, let her be considered this night as an emblem of New England, as New England now is. New England is a ship, stanch, strong, well-built, and particularly wellmanned. She may be occasionally thrown into the trough of the sea, by the violence of winds and waves, and may wallow there for a time; but, depend upon it, she will right herself. She will, ere long, come round to the wind, and will obey her helm. [Cheers and applause.]

We have hardly begun, my brethren, to realize the vast importance, on human society, and on the history and happiness of the world, of the voyage of that little vessel which brought the love of civil and religious liberty hither, and the Bible, the Word of God, for the instruction of the future generations of men. We have hardly begun to realize the consequences of that voyage. Heretofore the extension of our race, following our New England ancestry, has crept along the shore. But now the race has extended. It has crossed the continent. It has not only transcended the Alleghany, but has capped the Rocky Mountains. It is now upon the shores of the Pacific; and on this day, or if not on this day, then this day twelvemonth, descendants of New England will there celebrate the landing-[A Voice: “Today; they celebrate to-day."]

God bless them! Here's to the health and success of the California Society of Pilgrims assembled on the shores of the Pacific. Prolonged applause.] And it shall yet go

hard, if the three hundred millions of people of China—if they are intelligent enough to understand anything_shall not one day hear and know something of the Rock of Plymouth too! [Laughter and cheers.] But, gentlemen, I am trespassing too long on your time.

I [Cries of “No, no! Go on!”] I am taking too much of what belongs to others. My voice is neither a new voice, nor is it the voice of a young man. It has been heard before in this place, and the most that I have thought or felt concerning New England history and New England principles, has been before, in the course of my life, said here or elsewhere.

Your sentiment, Mr. President, which called me up before this meeting, is of a larger and more comprehensive nature. It speaks of the Constitution under which we live; of the Union, which for sixty years has been over us, and made us associates, fellow-citizens of those who settled at Yorktown and the mouth of the Mississippi and their descendants, and now, at last, of those who have come from all corners of the earth and assembled in California. I confess I have had my doubts whether the republican system under which we live could be so vastly extended without danger of dissolution. Thus far, I willingly admit, my apprehensions have not been realized. The distance is immense; the intervening country is vast. But the principle on which our Government is established, the representative system, seems to be indefinitely expansive; and wherever it does extend, it seems to create a strong attachment to the Union and the Constitution that protects it. I believe California and New Mexico have had new life inspired into all their people. They consider themselves subjects of a new being, a new creation, a new existence. They are not the men they thought themselves to be, now that they find they are members of this great Government, and hailed as citizens of the United States of America. I hope, in the providence of God, as this system of States and representative governments shall extend, that it will be strengthened. In some respects the tendency is to strengthen it. Local agitations will disturb it less. If there has been on the Atlantic coast, somewhere south of the Potomac—and I will not define further where it is if there has been dissatisfaction, that dissatisfaction

« ПредыдущаяПродолжить »